Decreasing Social Isolation in Adults via a Cognitive Wellness Program
Civic and Community Engagement
Community Health and Preventive Medicine
Mental and Social Health
Translational Medical Research
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AbstractIn October 2015, Buzzards Bay Speech Therapy and Coastline Elderly Services, Inc, collaborated to address concerns regarding healthy aging in New Bedford. According to the 2014 Massachusetts Healthy Aging Data Report, New Bedford scored lowest in the state with regard to healthy aging, with 31 health indicators worse than the state average, including depression, mental illness, stroke and Alzheimer's disease. Recognizing that these indicators can lead to social isolation and further exacerbate health concerns, we developed a program focusing on cognitive wellness in order to enhance social engagement. The goal of the program is to provide evidenced based interventions to adults in order to improve social connectedness, sense of well-being, and communicative effectiveness in order to decrease social isolation, depressive symptoms and caregiver burden. The program uses class-based instruction and lively activities to educate and engage participants while practicing tips and techniques to improve thinking, memory, communication and socialization skills. Quantitative and qualitative outcome data collected from 2015-present reveals that classes are effective at decreasing social isolation, encouraging the formation/renewal of friendships and the trying of new things, and improving confidence in communication skills. Additionally, data reflects that the factor most susceptible to change following participation in our classes is a feeling of optimism, born out of camaraderie within the class, gains in self-confidence and self-acceptance, and motivation to improve. Currently we are initiating Participatory Action to enhance community engagement, expand programming, and identify resources that may be available/created in order to improve cognitive wellness and decrease social isolation.
Permanent Link to this Itemhttp://hdl.handle.net/20.500.14038/26737
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Physiological and Social Stress on Cognitive PerformanceNagatti, Doreet; Anina, Daniele; Daigle, Maria; O'Brien, Kymberlee M. (2016-05-20)Humans are highly social creatures and this provides us with a number of benefits, such as protection and support, but it also brings new avenues for stress from social sources. Basic and translational neuroendocrine research has yielded a rich set of findings and a general understanding of how acute and chronic stress can result in reduced health, earlier aging, and earlier death. Although stress can be indexed by level of cortisol, the major stress hormone in humans, many interrelated physiological systems are involved in a stress response, including the cardio and vascular systems. Research toward greater understanding of stress buffering mechanisms holds value for improved human health in the face of entrenched social stressors. In particular, acute and chronic stress have consistently been found to impair cognitive performance, Many adults in high stress environments also face a changing social landscape during college years: changes in living partners, less control over noise, sleep, exercise, and nutrition. In this pilot investigation, we are interested in measuring the influences of acute stress on cognitive performance and whether social support, a factor that is modifiable, would be protective on the multi-systems relationships between stress and cognition. Broadly, we found (1) that higher levels of cortisol measured in saliva was associated with a faster return to resting levels of salivary cortisol (a measure of flexible, adaptive functioning of the central HPA stress system) after the stressor is removed and may also be associated with lower cortisol in the initial response to the stressor. In parallel, we found (2) that higher levels of cortisol were associated with impaired cognitive performance after the stress task, (3) finally, we found that those reporting high social support showed faster recovery to baseline in the cardiovascular systems and greater social support produced some buffering of stress response on their post-stress cognitive performance.
A paradox of social distancing for SARS-CoV-2: loneliness and heightened immunological riskRozenkrantz, Liron; Bernstein, Michael H.; Hemond, Christopher C. (2020-08-10)The World Health Organization declared the SARS-CoV-2 virus a global pandemic in March of 2020. In an effort to reduce the harms and rate of exponential spread, regional and national governments across the world instituted a variety of measures. These have included orders for citizens to practice social distancing, which in the US has affected over 300 million people. In their most extreme, these social distancing measures are isolation orders to “shelter in place”, at one point affecting ~17 million Americans. Data regarding the effects of these policies are emerging, but two outcomes include greater social isolation and likely increased loneliness. An important distinction arises between these two concepts. Social isolation is the objective lack of, or reduction in, social contact. Loneliness is the subjective discrepancy between the desired and actual levels of social connection. Objective social isolation and subjective loneliness are only weakly correlated (r ~ 0.2), but both have independent real-world health consequences and are associated with long-term increases in mortality (29% and 26%, respectively). The magnitude of these effects rival that of smoking and obesity on long-term health risks. Emerging evidence for the social repercussions of the pandemic is worrisome; a recent longitudinal study following more than 35,000 people reported that while overall loneliness has not changed during the COVID pandemic, individuals who described high levels of baseline social isolation are now experiencing significantly worse pandemic-related loneliness. Now more than ever the most socially vulnerable would likely benefit from clinical assessment and support. Our own unpublished survey data (N = 155) indicate that 60% of respondents from an online campaign in the USA, Israel, and UK report a greater sense of loneliness since the pandemic began.
Relationship Between Theory of Mind, Emotion Recognition, and Social Synchrony in Adolescents With and Without AutismFitzpatrick, Paula; Frazier, Jean A.; Cochran, David E.; Mitchell, Teresa V.; Coleman, Caitlin; Schmidt, R. C. (2018-07-31)Difficulty in social communication and interaction is a primary diagnostic feature of ASD. Research has found that adolescents with ASD display various impairments in social behavior such as theory of mind (ToM), emotion recognition, and social synchrony. However, not much is known about the relationships among these dimensions of social behavior. Adolescents with and without ASD participated in the study. ToM ability was measured by viewing social animations of geometric shapes, recognition of facial emotions was measured by viewing pictures of faces, and synchrony ability was measured with a spontaneously arising interpersonal movement task completed with a caregiver and an intentional interpersonal task. Attention and social responsiveness were measured using parent reports. We then examined the relationship between ToM, emotion recognition, clinical measures of attention and social responsiveness, and social synchronization that arises either spontaneously or intentionally. Results indicate that spontaneous synchrony was related to ToM and intentional synchrony was related to clinical measures of attention and social responsiveness. Facial emotion recognition was not related to either ToM or social synchrony. Our findings highlight the importance of biological motion perception and production and attention for more fully understanding the social behavior characteristic of ASD. The findings suggest that the processes underlying difficulties in spontaneous synchrony in ASD are different than the processes underlying difficulties in intentional synchronization.